Monday, 29 August 2011

Excited.com

I have been waiting soooo long to reveal this beauty and now at last I can let the cat out of the bag! It has been months and months in the making but the wait has definitely been worth it!  This fabulous magazine kit is available in WHSmiths, Hobbycrafts and Craft stores from Sept 1st.  Practical Publishing have put this together and I have to thank Louisa and the team over there for all their hard work, we absolutely love the way this turned out but it took a long time to get all the colour matches and co-ordinating pieces right.

The kit is boxed and includes an exclusive papercraft kit with 16 papers, a clear stamp set, ribbons, buttons, die-cuts, stickers and gems, plus a lovely mylar house template - all these lovely elements go an unbelievably long way, I made 10 projects and still has loads of bits left over to make a few more.
BUT, I have to say, that's not the best bit about it...also included in the kit (which is a bargacious £7.99) is a fandabbydozy magazine! Not just any magazine either - this 68page mag is completely dedicated to the kit, where myself and 8 of my lovely design team buddies have put together an absolute treasure trove of projects for you to follow and keep for inspiration. There are no adverts taking up all the spaces in the mag, it is completely chock-a-block of projects and instructions giving you amazing ideas, techniques and how-to's...now, what are you waiting for?? get moving and go find a copy NOW, I know from my twitter and facebook there are at least 100 people already waiting eagerly for it to be released so I think it will be sold out in a snap!

(I don't even have a copy myself yet at the time of sharing this, I'm hoping to procure some stock for the Polkadoodles website but as I forgot to pre-order (duh!) I don't have high hopes of this so if you see it elsewhere please get it as I may not be able to stock it!). Sob.
x

Friday, 26 August 2011

Polkadoodles Challenge - Stashbox stamp, spots and dots, week

Wowser, get me!! I am actually writing this post 2 weeks ahead of the challenge, woohooooo!! Clearly I am very ill and not of sound mind as this person is way too organised to be me.

Anyway, onto the card...
I am in luuuurve with Gorjuss, have been ever since the range was launched and we recently added the stamps to our website - I figure if I have to have 'em everyone else probs needs 'em too.
I actually had a day at home today - the first Sunday in months and I chose not to do any work. Didnt quite work out as I did do some but as soon as I got up I decided I wanted to make a card. A me card. Just for me.
Just lately I've been a little fed up and feeling like my cards are a bit stale and stuck in a rut. All I ever get to do these days is make samples and demo and very often as a pro maker that means you kinda compromise a bit on what you would maybe make if you were just doing cards for family and friends. When you make in this way you're always restricted in the materials you can use, especially with TV samples as we are not allowed by the TV commission to use lots of products which aren't available to actually buy on the shows. So if you sit there wondering why we never use pretty ribbons and gems etc etc that's the reason. The biggest restriction is time though...the days of being able to spend an hour colouring in and assembling a card are long gone for me. So today I just played...
I used the Gorguss stamps as my Stashbox treat and then the blue polka dot paper in the background is from the new Magical Winter CD, I just punched around the edge with my Martha Stewart punch.  I had a nestie shape already cut on my desk and then used this to cut around the shape on some felt and glued together as the background.
Excuse the slightly blurry piccie here. I made a little canopy on the top of the card here just by folding a strip of paper in half lengthways and again punching the edge with my scallop punch and glueing to the top edge of the card. I've been using Pinflair glue gel lately and if this is something you've never tried - WHAT are you thinking of, peeps?? EVERY crafter needs this glue, it's completely awesome and allows you to get loads of dimension, but completely manipulatable (is that a word?) so if you make a boo boo you're not nackered, to coin a phrase. In fact I've decided I love it so much we are going to be stocking it permanently on the website as soon as I can get in. Make sure you get it with the syringe!...why? well, lookeee ye here below what I did...
...I made this pic giant so you can see...look at the icicles! Squeeeeeeal!!!!!  I've used it in a similar way before to make ice which is really effective if you're making an acetate card because it is a completely crystal clear gel which most others aren't. Also it doesnt stink to high heaven either because it's not a silicon.  So using the syringe that comes with the glue I just ran it along the edge of the canopy and then went back and made the icicles. Little tip - squeeze gently then just pull the syringe away really slowly to get the daintiest little spikes you can. It takes about an hour to start going off so make sure you put it to dry without the icicles touching anything else, as long as they're not too heavy at the bottom they will just hang - it's MAGIC!
(another tip: even once it's cured it has a tendency to cling, especially to itself so make sure if you're giving the card you protect those little stelactites with something first before placing in an envelope or a box.

Anyway, I used a couple of ribbons, flowers, some twinkley bits etc to decorate the rest of the card. The sentiment I just did by hand because I was too lazy to get my fatass out the chair to go find a stamp that was suitable. Here are the coloured images, which were done with Promarkers.  Must admit I do think these are lush...x

Friday, 19 August 2011

Polkadoodles Challenge - a single layer

So my teamies over on the Polkadoodles challenge blog set a toughie this week! We could only use a single layer on our cards...eek!!
But, lucky for me I've been doing loads of single layer cards for a while on my various demo's so I think I probably found it a little easier than some of the others but it really showed us all how much we love to embellish our projects I think! Go on, try it, it's harder than you think!

Well, I musto confess now. I had this card up my sleeve from a while back but it fits the challenge really well. If you don't count the red mat under the piccy that is, but my neat little trick counteracts that I think.  I used my favest stamps (I really do think these are some of my all time fave ever) and just did loads of masking and layering. The colouring is ALL Promarkers, just using a mix of greys and adding a black right at the very top of the sky. Then I ran over it with a white inkssentials pen to create all the little snowflakes.  I think this card was the very first scene I made like this and to be honest I still adore it, I want to go inside, it looks like they have a big tree and a cosy fire to sit round doesnt it!?


So did you see the neat little trick that fits the challenge perfickly?  See the scallop sentiment? That is also a stamp - well, two actually. The scallop was stamped and then the message inside it (stamps are here, this is SUCH a great sentiment set, you will use it forever). Then I took a craft knife and just cut slightly around the scallop so I could weave the ribbon through. So you see, it looks like it's mat and layered onto the card but in fact is part of the card itself. So as it's a 0 layer it cancels out the cheaty red layer in my world! But neat huh?  I love it, even in real life I still want to touch the edge of that scallop, it looks so 3D.
So there we go, my take on this week's challenge - if you haven't checked the rest of my teamies work yet make sure you do, there are some amazing projects on there! squeeeeeeeeel!

Friday, 12 August 2011

DT project

I'm determined to join the Polkadoodles challenge blog more! I am ashamed how little I manage to join in these days, I must get more organised and plan ahead a bit more.
Anyway I managed to join in this week's challenge which has a "Good Luck" theme by adapting a card I'd made as a sample for the Pick of the Day shows last week.
With this challenge I made a very simple 6 x 6" easel card using one of the Fairy images from Magic Winter. I really wanted to show with a little thought you can often make images which seem really specific more versatile if you think a bit laterally.
I coloured the Fairy with my brand new Flexmarkers (lush! eek! check out those gorge pale colours!!) and decorated the edge with my MS snowflake punch but they look like flowers.  I am also in love with Kuretake's products and am lucky enough to be working with them on a few things right now - every time I see Steph demo on Create and Craft she inspires me to pick up pens and markers and start doodling and doing Calligraphy! In reality I'm practicing for when I have to stand in and demo on the shows, I am a long long way from being as good as she is with the mighty pen, I'm rather intimidated!  This is a freehand calligraphy so I just doodled "Good Luck" and made it a bit swirly and embellished with some flowers. I've used the metallic calligraphy pens here and they are completely lush, you can mix colours to get fantastic looks right across the whole Kuretake range - I used the red and silver together to give a much softer look than just using one or the other as I wanted to keep away from a Christmas feel, considering this card was originally made as a Crimbo card!
I know a lot of people look at Calligraphy and are completely phased by it because it does look really complex but if you would like to have a go, look on the Kuretake website as they have some great practice sheets or just google - you will see an absolute array of different styles, there really are no rules and anyone can achieve a great look easily, no matter how poor your handwriting. I think we still think of "Olde English" when we think Calligraphy and old school calligraphers were always very strict on how letters were formed but there's no reason why you can't do your own take on it too. I have a very short attention span for rules (!) so I just go with the flow but you do need to have a bit of a practice and personally I do think you will get a much better result if you're using proper calligraphy products because you do need the angle of the tip to base it around. Go on, give it a try, it's so addictive! x

Saturday, 6 August 2011

FLEXmarkers...the review.Get a cuppa and a biccie...

Just in case you haven't read Pen-gate, last week I was asked to demonstrate a brand new product from Letraset on Ideal World's Pick of the Day shows - the brand new FLEXmarker.

So when I agreed to do the shows I had no real idea what this product was other than a marker with a brush tip and to be honest with it being a brand new product and exclusive to the channel for a month and, to boot, a WORLD launch of the product I felt a bit of pressure and started to stress a little at only having 2 days to prep before going live before the world with it. Yes, that IS how much notice I got!

So they arrived on Friday afternoon and I RIPPED the package open I can tell you! As soon as I saw it I thought ooohhh just like a Copic! So I got on the phone to Letraset and asked for the full product info and couldn't wait to read through it.  I have to say I was a little underwhelmed at first, it takes a LOT to get me excited about a craft product these days, nothing seems to be brand new or unseen before and nothing seems to stand out much from the crowd these days, we seem to be in a craft hiatus as far as "new" is concerned. Anyway I scribbled on a bit of paper just to look but didnt have time for anything else as I was demoing in Leeds all day Saturday.

So Sunday, feeling really tired from a heavy week and not very inspired I retrieved all 24 of the Flexies (as I will call them here) and made a swatch board for the shows. By the time I'd got to the 3rd colour in Set One I was "ooohing" and "aaahing" and my excitement levels were kicking in a bit as I realised how lush the colours were and how smooth they went on the paper.  So here are my findings:

I'm not in love with the packaging and the whole look of the barrel in it's grey, I think these markers could look a lot more exciting than they do, but let's be honest what it looks like on the outside is irrelevant if it does a great job on the inside.  BUT I was absolutely over the moon to see that Letraset have taken heed and finally colour coded the ends of the markers. And not just one end, people, BOTH ends, both coloured and numbered! And also, not just a printed colour and number which will rub off over time, it's encapsulated into both ends in a way that I think it will be there forever.  A fantastic start if you're a geek like me who likes to have them all colour coded and filed into number order etc.  Also, I found that the colour indicators did actually reflect the colour of the pen really well - nothing more annoying than getting a different colour to what you think you picked!  Now, one more thing I'll say about the caps before I go onto the pen itself is that you MUST make sure you really click the caps on when you use them, they are a bit firmer than Promarker caps with a definite click. I must admit when I was on TV demoing with my hot and sweaty hands I did find the caps a little bit harder to remove, they have a band around them rather than the little nodule you find on a Promarker so if someone does have dexterity issues and not much strength in their hands they may find them a little more tricky to remove sometimes.  And as we were rushing and the presenters were also using them we kept leaving the lids off which made mine dry out a bit in the studio heat (it was el scorchio that day).  Also, I do wish they'd kept that nodule on there so the pen doesn't roll around so much - missed a trick there Letraset I'm afraid, no idea why you decided to take it off but I do wish you'd put it back please!

So, the pen...double ended, alcohol marker. Non refillable. Onto the big thing first, let's get it out of the way - the price.  I asked Letraset what the RRP would be for a single pen and was told around £3 each. Wowser! Much steeper than the £2 for a Promarker but PLEASE don't dismiss them for just this reason, please read on and if you only buy ONE to try you will realise why they are the additional money.  When a marker has a brush tip added, the brush (I am told from a reliable source, and to add credence to this, Kuretake told me this so it wasn't part of any sales pitch, people) the brush has to be inserted into the barrel by hand rather than machine filled, and clearly this additional labour cost will really increase the price.  But I also personally think that if something is hand finished it will also be much better quality than anything made by a machine.  I also have to say that in MY opinion I much prefer this brush to the Copic brush which is clearly it's biggest competitor...

The Flex brush is, well, flexible! But not in an out of control, too much movement kind of way.  Copic users adore their brush tip and I do too, I originally began with Copics but found that I always went outside the lines when I was doing fine detail. So I tried Promarkers and then moved over because I just found it so much easier to be neat with the hard nib of the PM. But I've always missed that softness of the brush and I think that's why I end up using the chisel so often so I can get those big sweeps of colour and work much faster too.

Anyway, the brush tip on the Flexies is made up of fibres and you will find that after even just a few minutes of using it, the brush just gets softer and softer and after a few hours it is just baby soft, which can only do one thing as far as I'm concerned - help you.  I can actually see the tip of the brush fibres parting slightly as I move it which means it gives superb blending because it's manipulating the colour onto the paper of it's own accord. Very clever.  The reason I prefer it to the Copics is that the brush is shorter. And that means more control as far as I'm concerned.

Now, we have exactly the same dye based ink formulations that are in the Promarkers and Tria's and that also means we can mix into our other markers too.  There will be 72 colours in the range to begin with but they won't be available to retail stores until the end of August as C&C had 4 weeks exclusivity for the launch.  There are 4 sets of 6 pens, and I have also seen 4 sets of 12 although I don't have these yet, and presumably the remaining 24 will be launched at the end of August but Letraset haven't confirmed this with me yet either. There will also be a Flexmarker blender, but you can also use  your Promarker blender too. Sets 1 and 2 are completely brand new colours in the alchohol family at Letraset, so never ever seen before.  All 4 sets (6 packs), 1,2,3,4 (24 colours in total) will NOT be available in Promarkers, but Sets 3 and 4 are currently available as Triamarker colours - again these other 12 colours will not be available within Promarkers. Phew! Took some getting my head around that one.

One really important thing to note - you really need to prime these on the brush, especially on the light colours in Set One and Two, so don't think they're not working if no colour is on the brush!  So just take the brush end and scribble onto some scrap paper or card for a minute until the colour flushes through into the brush - then you're off! You should only ever need to do it once.


So, I decided to colour exactly the same image as I did for Pengate as it was only fair and I wanted to be able to make a direct comparison, and this is the result.
(sorry I forgot to take a pic of the reverse before I glued it down to compare the bleedthrough).


When I first started to use them I kept veering towards my blender pen simply because of late I've been liking the really subtle shading this gives me but to be honest, after about 20mins of using the Flexies I never really gave the blender another thought, the brush is so smooth it kinda removes some of the necessity of it.

The brush is so, so soft. I know I'm banging on about it but it really is and at the end of the day this is what makes these markers so special, otherwise they're just a Promarker and 99% of us crafters know what they can do.

I have to say, the colours in Sets 1,2,3,4 are not the best colours for Christmas! I'd geared myself up to do Christmas colouring and printed loads of images off and couldn't use them, but because the colours are so pale and translucent you can layer them to make new colours.
I don't know if technically the formulation has made the colours extra translucent compared to a normal Promarker or Tria, I suspect it may be the case to enable an even flow through the brush (ie it may have to be slightly thinner to flow better through the longer fibres) or it could probably just be that because there is less colour we have more alcohol which lets it flow better, but the colours certainly seem to layer better which means you can make loads of new colours. I did this in PM's anyway but sometimes a lighter colour on top of a pale one seems to sit on top and look dappled rather than blending in and you seem to get less of this here.
The brush just sweeps the colour on in even brushstrokes BUT Promarker users - you need to work more slowly! Well, I do anyway, or I find I work too fast for the inkflow in the brush and it gets a bit dry on me until it's replenished. But that's no biggie and might be just me when I'm used to using the giant chisel! If it does happen all I do is hold it vertically for a few seconds until it's back again.

You can see here on the tree how seemless the blending is and I really didn't have to work too hard to achieve this - the blending is definitely easier than with Promarkers, the brush spreads the colour around for you. I found working the Copic way, ie in small circles rather than pushing back and forth is the best technique and that also helped to soften the brush anyway, not that it was ever hard in the first place.  EXACTLY THE SAME as on the Speccies image, I used 4 colours here to get the tree green - in fact, no, sorry I lie, I had to use 5 colours as I had to mix Surf Blue into the Chartreuse to get the darker green because my colour palette was limited. If you directly compare this to the brushstrokes you can see on the Speccies image you will see how much smoother and softer it is and that is primarily because of that brush.
I also have to say, that although I had to go a bit slower than I would normally with the chisel tip, I could still work really fast and on Sunday I coloured 30, yes, 30! images in with the Flexes, all for the show samples (not just simple stuff either, I will post those samples at some point so you can see). On Monday all I did was assemble the 30 cards - I don't think I'd have done that many if I'd been using anything else to be honest, I was amazed how quickly I got them done.

Now for the jeans, this is where I found I really had to lay a lot of colour down for the Speccies so I wanted to ensure I used a really pale and a dark blue again in the same way. I used the celestial blue and then glacier blue, just pushing the colour around in circles again and I was so pleased with this result. There is more of a hard edge on his inside leg (ooer) but I could've got rid of that if I'd really wanted to. Obviously when you lay a lot of colour down and keep blending and blending then you will get bleed over your lines and I won't lie and say I didn't but it wasn't anything out of the ordinary compared to what I'd expect from using a Copic or Promarker. Although I didn't take a pic, the bleedthrough on the back (again same 160gsm Ultimate Graphic paper) was a little more than with a Promarker but I did work the pen more to get that subtle soft shading so I wasn't really surprised.

Face: I completely adored the colours in Set One for skintones. This set completely fits into those skin shades of Promarker and the Antique white will replace my ivory Promarker almost. The colours are SO very pale they now compare to those wonderful Copic shades which enable the Copic users to achieve all the fantastic shading on faces and cheeks that we see on Tilda stamps and the like. Quite simply, Copic have more pale tones to work with which means the blending becomes easier. If you can use 4 or 5 colours which are very similar and blend them in a circle, you're going to get a very smooth blend compared to something you would achieve with 2 or 3 similar colours.  Add the brush and that blend becomes even better.

(Now I have to say, this is something I didn't really say enough about on my Speccies review and I should have, so I'll say it now. As I said before, Leann Chivers has put a lot of work into the sets of colours and the Speccies do have some great colour choices and lots of pale and pastels to choose from. The difference is that to achieve that blending you will need to pick more colours and  you will need to work that bit harder to get them smooth. But hey, you're not paying £3 a pen so you need to expect that in my opinion.)


Coming back to the Flexies vs Copics vs Promarker debate, I really do prefer the Flexmarker brush to the Copic one. It's softer, shorter so I can control it better and it also is more pointy I think. As I said right at the start, I find the Copic one makes me go over the lines on detail and this one is much better for that.  Also, because I changed over from Copics early on I only have about 50 Copics and I've never been able to achieve those Tilda faces, I've always just blended a bit around the edge but found it always bled so much I didn't want to overwork it. With Promarkers I generally only use 3 colours and leave more of that harder edge. Not any more! Now I have those extra shades I am going mental with faces and I was really surprised at how easy it was to get that nice flushed face feel I see all over blogland.  I do find the Copic brush is a bit drier than the Flex one and generally I would say that a brush tip is drier to use than the Promarker nibs, it's just down to the fibres and how the ink flows I think. I don't care, I can sweep, feather, push and do what I like with this brush and I adore it.

Recently I've been demoing a bit at Hunkydory's Inspirations shop and they only sell Copics and each time I've had to use them I've decided I'm taking them up again, not that I've really stopped, I just don't use them as often because professionally I have to use PM's more.  And I think I shall now, along with the Flexies. Now, I have to admit I haven't used them alongside each other, although I have used Copic and Promarker together and because the ink formulations are different they sometimes are a bit difficult to work together and I'm assuming it will be the same again with Flexmarkers as they are the same as a PM but there are loads of uber talented people who won't have a problem with making it work better than me.

So, time for Pro's and Cons again, or in other words, throw me to the dogs time :D
Pro's...
Brush tip gives a superior blend and is easy to work, gets softer with use
New, pale colours are must have's
Seem more translucent, easier to build and layer colours to create new one
Packs give good colour collections if you're not good at choosing your own
Work with Promarkers and Tria's so they complement your collections, you don't have to replace them
Colour and number coded ends at last for easy identification

Cons...
Price. At £3 rrp for a single pen they ain't cheap and they are more than the entry level Copics. BUT the brush compensates for that and I think most of us will collect these in value packs which will bring that price down anyway.
Non refillable. Bit disappointed Letraset chose this path but also I'm lazy and more inclined to buy a new one on a whim rather than refill I think so for me personally, it's not a huge negative, but I know it will be for some.
Caps can be a tad tight to get on and off - make sure you get them back on properly!
Roll - PLEASE Letraset, put the little cap nodule back on so they don't roll off the desk!
Prime - remember you have to prime right at the start. Not really a "con" but as I'm struggling to find anything much negative I feel I have to put the picky things in!

So overall, you may be able to tell that I love my new Flexmarkers! Definitely a step up in terms of quality from the Promarker and yes, I will have to have them all as having used them extensively this week I can see me preferring these to that hard nib. In fact, Letraset, if you don't bring out loads more colours pronto sharpish you may find you drive me back to Copics again because once you get  used to using a brush properly you find it hard to go back again I think. And with the Flexmarkers you really do feel like you're using a paintbrush to colour in but in a very controlled way.

For me, when I was demoing these live I knew I was right to rave about them when I got the non-craft presenters Sean Ryan, Martyn Parker and Andy Love using them live on air. Each and every one of them picked them up for the first time and coloured in a fantastic image. Ok, I told them what colours to use and what to do, but they did it themselves having never even used Promarkers before. Actually, Andy told me after that he had used a Promarker a couple of times. But even so.  I was really anxious that all I was going to demo was skintones and clothing blends and it would be boring but I also figured that was what would blow you away because I know it did me at first.  So, as I said at the first Pengate review: this is my opinion, Letraset haven't asked me to do this review, I only have 24 Flexmarkers, they haven't paid me to say this, although obviously they did pay me to demo them on C&C (my OH had a pop and said I was "selling" them on the shows but believe me this was really just because I think they're amazing). All the opinions above are my own and relate to my own findings. Choose to like it, choose to loathe it but they're my words, from my experience.

At the end of the day, my philosophy is this - if I can buy a marker for 50p and it does what a £3 marker will do I will buy it and I will rave about it and recommend it. But in life, I do find that you get what you pay for - Flexmarkers are firmly pointed at a particular market and that market will adore them. I am impressed that Letraset chose to launch a new product with Crafters first rather than the professional art market, it shows their commitment to providing us with better products which will work for us.  Professionals are going to snap these up too and not even give a hoot about the price compared to the really high end Tria's and Kurecolors and whatever others are out there.  But as a crafter and a self-taught designer (no, contrary to what people say I am NOT really a graphic designer, never have been and haven't been to Art School or got a degree, all I have is an O Level Art) I WANT the best because they will make me better. Simples.  I don't see why, just because we're "crafters and not artists" we do have to settle for something inferior.  Why shouldn't I have the same pen as David Hockney uses, or use the same paint as Rolf Harris? And I want to embalm my cow in the same resin that Damien Hurst uses thankyou very much.  If they use it, I want it because I know if I'm not compromising on my materials, what I make is the best I can do. And if it's not, then that's down to me and my ability, not just that I was using something not very good.  And in craft it's so important - we all know the importance of good cardstock and what a difference that makes - hells bells we have mountains of the bloody stuff at home!  So yeah, I unashamedly LOVE these Flexmarkers - and everyone else will adore them too but may not feel they need them or indeed, feel they need to pay a higher price for what they think they get elsewhere. We are ALL different and we all have different choices to make for whatever reason, that doesn't make anyone better than anyone else.  So, go forth, make your own decision, use this as impartial information that you're forearmed with, the choice is yours. I think loads of you who got them are going to leave some reviews under this post and by golly, please feel free, I can take it, believe me! xx

Friday, 5 August 2011

The Great Pen-Gate saga...

I'd like to just put a few things into perspective on my previous review of the Spectrum Noir pens after reading a couple of forum threads and seeing some backlash - interesting reading and I always love to read your comments, good or bad as long as they're constructive and not just bitching for the sake of it! Don't worry, I don't take these things to heart (my poor ice cold, stone cold heart is shrivelled from torment) there are always those who have to jump in when someone dares to have an opinion about something, I just wish they would really make informed, constructive comments rather than just negative ones. Hey ho.

Firstly, I do not work for Letraset or Kuretake, I am self-employed and only officially work for Polkadoodles, my own business. Any demonstrations you see me do for any other company are on a freelance basis and yes, usually I will get paid a nominal sum for doing such demonstrations as anyone would expect to do. I am not paid by Create and Craft and I do not work for Create and Craft, although sometimes they also ask me to demo some shows where they pay me a fee for doing so.  All of these demonstrations are undertaken with consideration because I will only endorse products which I believe in and enjoy - quite simply, I can't rave about a product if I don't like it and wouldn't use it myself.  Hence why on our Polkadoodles website we don't stock every single craft product out there - I choose the stock for the website myself and therefore I choose the products I like.  Indeed, I have turned down offers to demo other brands in the past because I do not use them and never will use them and no doubt I will do the same again in the future.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm pretty honest, in fact my honesty can be my downfall sometimes, I am prone to speak my mind and not everyone likes this although it's rarely done with malice, usually more a case of speaking before brain engages. Personally I would rather be disliked than compromise my integrity, I was brought up that way and I will not apologise to anyone for it, we live in a free world and I've never felt a desperation to be liked or had to strive for anyone's approval, nice as that may be in an ideal world.

I am also not "on the Letraset team" (as someone put on a forum).  Letraset uses many designers to endorse their products and I have to say they support many other designers much more than they do me or my design team.  They will occasionally give me some free product to give as blog candy in giveaways etc but I have to usually ask for it and it is very much a professional relationship between myself and Letraset. I purchased the bulk of my Promarker collection from Joanna Sheen a long, long time ago long before I stocked Promarkers in my shop or did a demo for Letraset or Create and Craft and the only additional ones I have that are freebies were supplied for demo purposes or are ones I've bought myself.

If anything, I probably have closer connections to Kuretake, a direct competitor to Letraset in the UK although again this is purely on a professional level, but I have at least met the people at Kuretake and they are more proactive in their approach to marketing and networking Kuretake at the moment. Both Companies know I work for the other from time to time and neither Letraset or Kuretake have issues with me working for each other because they know I will be professional in my conduct and in maintaining both my integrity and theirs. In fact, you will see me demonstrating on Create and Craft for Kuretake in the not so distant future and I can't wait.  The reason I demo for both companies is so that I can give you an informed and honest opinion about the product and I have gone to great lengths to explain that to both companies as I think it benefits everyone concerned.  If I was at all biased in my opinions and actions I'm sure Create and Craft would not allow me to represent both companies on TV and nor would Letraset or Kuretake want me to represent them either. I feel I can fairly and honestly represent both sides because, as both a professional crafter and personally in my crafting I use products from both brands alongside each other. I think it's testament to my own integrity that both Kuretake and Letraset do allow me to demo their products in the first place.

So, seeing a couple of comments about my Speccies review since I posted, it seems some people don't or can't understand that it IS possible to be unbiased and honest about a product whilst you also represent a competitive product at the same time. Well, I'm sorry, but from the majority of the comments I have seen either on the forums, twitter, email and facebook you are in a minority and most people agree with me that you can be independent and truthful about such things. So big thanks to all those who have put their faith in me, it means a lot. Without integrity you're not worth much in my opinion, so this is why I have decided to put this straight. Having my own business and appearing on TV and in public sets me up for a great fall if I was to ever compromise my own honesty and clearly this is not something I would risk for the sake of a bloody alcohol based marker pen, whoever manufactures it!! It could be made by Johnny Depp for all I care but if it doesnt work as well as 20p crayon in Tesco then I'm sorry but I will tell you that!

SO the issue seems to be that I posted this review BEFORE I presented the Letraset Flexmarker Pick of the Day on Tuesday night.
To be fair, I can kind of understand this gripe, maybe it wasn't great timing on my part but I did weigh this up beforehand and decided it would actually be more inappropriate AFTER the Flexmarkers were launched as I would have used them much more than the speccies and having been on TV raving about the Flex's all day it would have seemed completely biased if I disliked the speccies (incidentally, Leann knew I was doing a Letraset POD and was still happy for me to review) but anyway, there was a whole sequence of events that made me post the review when I did - mainly time constraints...but in the end I decided I would still review the Speccies because, quite honestly I wouldnt even compare them to a Flexmarker in the first place. Promarkers yes, Flexmarkers and Copics - definitely not. Having a brush tip makes a HUGE difference, as any Copic user will tell you, and as anyone who uses Copics knows, Letraset are probably aiming the Flexmarkers directly at the Copic users. Letraset have been developing this product for months and months and I had a long-forgotten conversation way back at the end of last year about new products in development, not that I was privileged to any more information than that.

Two weeks ago I PURCHASED two packs of Speccies direct from Crafters Companion to try out and review. Last week on Twitter I told Leann I'd ordered the pens and if she wanted me to review them I was more than happy to do so (if Leann had said she didnt feel it was appropriate then I would have respected her wishes), in fact Leann was slightly concerned that it would compromise my position with Letraset but as this was my own personal review of a product this would not compromise anything as far as I was and still am concerned and I told Leann this - believe it or not, Letraset do not hang on every single word I say, they have a marketing department and they have their own way of doing things. I am very much left out of the loop and on a need to know basis. I do not run their blog, I do not do their Twitter or Facebook feed, Letraset is a company, I am merely a person. They did not send me the Flexmarkers to test during development (much to my chagrin I have to say) although I do know they DID send them to Copic users for testing. I didn't even receive my set until Friday last week and couldn't even use them until Sunday because I was away demonstrating in Preston and Leeds last week.

In my own stupid, simpleton mind all I really wanted to do was post my findings so that when everyone started asking me what the Speccies were like I could just say "go look at my blog" because, quite honestly, it sometimes gets boring repeating the same things over and over during the course of a demo day or show! But seriously, the main reason I decided to do it was because I KNEW you would ask me when you see me in person and if I've been asked to demonstrate a particular brand of pen by a shop it is really innappropriate that I start to tell you about an entirely different product, especially when that store doesn't stock that product. It's like going up to Customer Services in Tesco and asking what the Asda Cauliflower Cheese is like, you just wouldn't do it, but sometimes people put me in a really difficult position with such things. And personally I feel that if I'm going to demonstrate a product to you that has competitors in its field I OWE it to YOU to know as much as I can about those other products, so I can be honest when you ask.

At no time during my Speccies review have I said they are rubbish. In fact, if you read it properly you will find there are many positives about them. I don't think they are rubbish or sub-standard in any way. They're just different.
I used them the same way I would use my Copics, Promarkers and Kurecolors, all of which have to be used slightly differently, so I knew they would need to be used differently too.
To be quite frank, they are not even in the same ball-park as Flexmarkers or Kurecolors or Triamarkers. The latter are all much higher-end products very much for the professional market and are priced at such, ie a much higher price.
Speccies are, to my knowledge, the cheapest alcohol marker on the market.
I know LOADS of you love them, have bought them on the deals Crafters Companion launched last weekend and have totally bought into the entire system. Good for you, clearly they work for you.
Me? Well they don't do what I want them to, or what I thought they'd do, quite simply. And if there's a different product or products out there that does, well it doesn't take Einstein to figure out I will be using those instead.
So maybe it's me that's rubbish? Or maybe I expected too much. Whichever, it's fine by me.
But don't slate me for daring to express my opinion and turn this into a big negative ugly snowball just for the sake of it, as I said on the original post, GO MAKE YOUR OWN CHOICE.
All I ask is that you're as honest in your own opinion as I have been with mine.

And that is the last I will say on the Speccies review.
THE END.


Now, on a more positive front, my next review will be on the new Flexmarkers from Letraset, if you can bear to read it. There'll probably be a bit of good and a bit of bad in that too. Dare you read it or are you too scared that I may brainwash you into opening your purse and emptying it....can you feel me burying into your brain....?
; )
laters 'gaters, Pen-Gate will continue soon.
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